The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 25.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Last Dance

A Senior Reflects on His Final Tower Court

By Brian Loux

features editor

The Tower Court party tends to associate itself with a multitude of emotions, thoughts, and possibly memories for MIT students. Raucous. Awkward. Crowded. Overrated.

But most of these ideas focus around sexual activity in one way or another. Ask an MIT student about the party and talk of sex is at the very least implicit in the description. Most of the time, the talk would be about how easy it is to get it or how the rumor of how easy it is to get it is such bullshit.

In my general circle of friends, our thoughts gravitate towards the latter. I have plenty of embarrassing stories that happened to people I knew and myself. For the most part, the dance party became nothing more than an exercise in futility and desperate dreaming of a hedonistic paradise that either didn’t exist or we missed. In general, the mythology of the event seems to perpetuate because people keep hearing about friends of friends who hook up at the event each year. In many ways, it has become like a casino or a state lottery to us. The hope that we might be winners has always remained regardless of how many times the experience has proven otherwise.

Something different

This year was going to be different. We said that for the last three years. But as seniors, this was our last Tower Court. The last time we would get to do it before the deed becomes excessively sketchy. And so some of my friends decided that they would draw up a new game plan. This game plan focused on being more aggressive and less cautious about failure. Also, they would travel in groups to ease the isolation of one girl, and each promised to be another’s “wingman” if the situation arose. I distinctly remember similar ideas floating about in years past.

Yes, this year it’s going to be different for me. But not like that. I look back on the last three fruitless years and decide to take the “I don’t care anymore” route. To hell with the dress code, I say, I’m just not going to do this routine anymore. I wear a non-descript unflattering five-dollar t-shirt I bought two days ago at the festival of Saint Anthony’s in North End (and if you get nothing else out of this article, make it this: go to North End festivals as often as you can because they are good fun). I wear a very old and out of style pair of blue jean shorts with some sparse stains from paint and dirt. I wear a cheap pair of all-purpose sandals that will suffice for a dance floor. Fuck the Gap khakis and button-downs. I get there and I just dance. Alone. Like a white guy. And enjoy myself. That’s it. No going up to girls, no breaking in dance circles, no stupid lines, nothing. Occasionally someone will come up to me (read: twice the whole night), at which point I will reply, “Hi, what’s your name?” get her response, shake her hand, and walk somewhere else. I’m just not going to do it.

We arrive at around ten o’clock. There is again a typical crowd of probably 1,000 or more. The place is packed, yet empty.

Eleven o’clock. I become separated from my original group and spend most of the time greeting friends and freshmen that have stories about coming to the party in the back of a fraternity-sponsored U-Haul. I pick up that two of my friends have located partners and are giving it their all while the rest of the group is not as lucky. Late in the hour, I pass by a friend who came with a different group. I’ll call him Friend A. Friend A appears to be leading a girl towards the outside of the dancing mass. I don’t think anything of it at the moment, though it will come into play later. For the rest of the time, I just try to enjoy the radio station rap and the sprinkling of dance classics.

The best laid plans

Midnight. If you haven’t found a partner yet, you may as well call it quits. Walking back towards the entrance, I find two of my friends sitting on the gym floor away from the action. One was complaining that the flashing lights were making him dizzy, another just following suit. With nothing else to do, we sit down at the far side of the dance floor and talk. Around this time, a bomb was dropped into our camp. Friend A approaches me with a wide-eyed smile. He pats me on the shoulder and says with enough volume for my other two friends to hear, “I just got head outside the gym.”

He points in the direction of the entrance/exit of the party, where there is a small roped-off area that leads to the bathrooms. At first I don’t believe him, as the area was hardly private enough for such things. Next, I try to recollect what I saw of the girl he was leading in that direction and judge from that. But then I sit and really think about what motive he would have to lie to me. I am not one of his closer friends, and he did not even know the two guys sitting next to me. We were not engaged in any type of game or contest to one-up the other. All in all, his getting head made no difference to me. Which means he was telling the truth. Which was why it did make a difference.

And the reason behind that is Friend A and I are cut from similar cloth. In fact, I might even argue that I have the upper hand as far as physical build goes. Regardless, we are both far enough away from Brad Pitt level that no woman would swoon when either of us walked into the room. They may even want to avoid guys like us. And yet here he stands before us three with a beaming smile. He had something that we didn’t. Here you can go into a flurry of phrases like “aggression” and “confidence” and “benevolent assholery” that try to explain the characteristic that gets a guy sex. Qualifying it is in general a vain act better left for dating advice Web sites. All that is certain is that it’s something internal. In another universe, we three could have that internal characteristic, and be smiling and slapping other guys on the back and crafting the experience into an epic poem. So as much as we all joke about how she probably was diseased or ugly, we are all secretly wishing that we could switch roles and have the same opportunity as he.

Note the word “opportunity.” Most of the guys there might even turn down the offer, the whole act being too risky. Frankly, sex isn’t really the goal of guys at Tower Court. It’s vindication: proof to yourself (and maybe peers) that you are capable of attracting a mate. Proof that you’re not a loser. Take Friend B, who politely declined his dance partner’s invitation to spend the night. Why did the jealousy extend to him, and why did we bust his balls for not taking advantage of the situation instead of welcoming him into the circle of the empty-handed? Because he had won, and we had to knock him back down to our level.

Then maybe there is a game going on at Tower Court. Not “Get Ass,” but a college social game to prove one’s masculinity, and thus outdo the others around you. Pay ten dollars to gamble your self-confidence in the hope you can double it. The bigger the pot, the bigger the winner you are. And if that’s all true, then it would give Friend A reason to lie, bringing me back to square one a little more confused and a lot more frustrated.

Game over

A group of us leaves the party around 12:30 a.m. and head home with a minimal amount of conversation. I reach my room and put on Frank Zappa’s “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing” for a mood piece and start writing. A few minutes later, Friend C walks in the room with a large smile that soon turns into a look of surprise when he notices I’m in here, too. He introduces a female “friend” he met at the party. As I learn more about this freshman, I shoot him the look that very clearly says “not now and not ever on my couch.” After they leave, I hit the save button, turn out the lights, and climb into bed a little earlier than usual. I had experienced enough for one night.

It appeared this year was going to be very much the same.